HUGE thanks to the thousands of people who got Kindles for Christmas and downloaded one of my books!!!!! Hope you enjoy them!
*To celebrate my two-year blogging anniversary, I’ll be re-blogging some of my favorite posts from 2014 throughout the month of December*
The debate between self-publishing and traditional publishing has experienced a huge resurgence lately, pitting friend against friend, colleague against colleague, and reader against reader. It’s madness out there right now and while it’s easy to get caught up in who’s right and who’s wrong the real issue that should be being debated right now isn’t a technical one or even a theological one but a personal one.
There are pros and cons for both self-publishing and going the traditional route and by now we all know exactly what they are. They’ve been discussed to death in forums and on blogs, even on this one, and at this point there is enough information out there for anyone considering publishing to make a thoughtful and educated decision. And yet we still judge each other for the choices we make or don’t make and we still feel the need to compile even more…
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A few weeks ago I decided to join the amazingly creative and wonderfully insatiable community that is Wattpad. A few weeks ago I knew absolutely nothing about the social media site and today I still know close to nothing but what I do know is that Wattpad isn’t just a place for teenagers to share and consume fan-fiction but it’s a place where reading and writing are experiencing a magnificent renaissance. Not only are young people seeking out words but they’re being inspired to create their own. They’re learning how important that is, how important they are, and through this self-expression they’re not only falling in love with reading in an entirely new way but they’re falling in love with the very act of creating. It’s an absolutely thrilling time to be a writer and if you are, Wattpad is definitely the place to be. I’m still only a few weeks into the experience and I’m sure I’ll be blogging a lot about Wattpad in the future but for now I just wanted to let everyone know that the first few chapters of my new novel, The Girl In Between, are NOW ONLINE! That’s right, Free Chapter Friday has officially been revamped and each week on Friday and Saturday nights I’ll be posting new chapters on Wattpad from my upcoming series as well as excerpts from my backlist!
Bryn Reyes is a real life sleeping beauty. Afflicted with Klein-Levin Syndrome, she suffers episodes of prolonged sleep that steal weeks, and sometimes even months, from her life. But unlike most KLS patients, she doesn’t spend each episode in a catatonic state or wake up with no recollection of the time she’s missed. Instead, Bryn spends half her life in an alternate reality made up of her memories. For Bryn, the past is a place, until one day a boy she’s never met before washes up on the illusory beach of her dreams with no memory of who he is.
But the appearance of this strange boy isn’t the only thing that’s changed. Bryn’s symptoms are worsening, her body weakening as she’s plagued by hallucinations even while awake. Her only hope of finding a cure is to undergo experimental treatment created by a German specialist. But when Dr. Banz reveals that he knows more about her strange symptoms than he originally let on, Bryn learns that the boy in her head might actually be the key to understanding what’s happening to her, and worse, that if she doesn’t find out his identity before it’s too late, they both may not survive.
I’ve kept the details of my upcoming release locked up tight, not out of fear that someone would steal my idea but out of fear that some blog reader might point out that it’s already been done. It’s an irrational fear because, let’s face it, there is no such thing as a truly original story. We are constantly recycling ideas from the smallest details concerning character and setting, to bigger ideas like central conflicts and plot points. It’s the unique combination of those familiar elements that creates a new story but even with this knowledge, I’m still terrified that I’ve spent the past year writing a series that someone else has already done better.
Confession: my upcoming series is all about dreams. And what new trend is popping up in this fall’s YA releases? You guessed it. I’ve discovered several upcoming novels that revolve around dreams or navigating dreams or dream boys or dream girls or falling in love in dreams. Each time I stumble upon another book that’s even vaguely similar to my own concept I feel like someone has just punched me in the stomach. I curse like someone has too. Because this is 400 days, thousands of hours, and countless sleepless nights we’re talking about here. I’ve devoted the last year of my life to this project and the thought that upon publication, it might just disappear, buried beneath the other novels like it, is devastating to me.
Eventually, in the midst of my panic, I started to remember this age old rule of storytelling–that nothing is new, not completely–and this thought spurred me to think about my own reading habits. After all, readers are precisely who I was most concerned about in all of this. I was afraid that after reading three other novels about dreams this winter that people would pass over mine either because they didn’t like those other novels or because they liked them too much and didn’t think anything could top them. Again, another irrational fear. But when I stopped to think about how and why I read books, I realized that when I love a certain genre or a certain archetype or a certain setting, I tend to seek out books that share those qualities. And if the publishing trends of the last decade have taught us anything, it’s that other people, if not most people, tend to do the same thing.
The most famous example of this? Twilight. When I was sixteen they released the first movie in theaters and I remember that whole semester, every girl in my high school was lugging around those giant black books along with their textbooks. Around that time True Blood aired its first season and soon after The Vampire Diaries was turned into a television series as well. Vampire books had always been a popular literary vice among readers but they’d never exploded quite like this. During the height of Twilight’s popularity, not only were people devouring everything they could related to the books, but they were branching out and devouring anything and everything vampire-related as well.
Why? Because when we find something we like we can’t get enough of it. When Kettle Korn releases their holiday drizzle corn every fall I clean out the shelves at Walgreens pretty much once a week and when my birthday comes around and my boyfriend buys me a cake from marble slab I usually eat half of it in one sitting. It’s ridiculous and irrational but we are consumers. We consume things. And when we like something we consume it as much as possible. So maybe the fact that these other novels about dreams are being released around the same time that mine are, is actually a blessing in disguise. I’m indie, which means that I’m invisible. I can’t afford, nor do I have the clout to send out hundreds of ARCs or to put out press releases or organize a street team to share my book cover and host really snazzy giveaways. But traditional publishers do. And if they want to expose and promote this new trend for the sake of their authors, who’s to say that my work won’t be made more visible as well? Who’s to say that someone won’t read one of those other books, fall in love with the concept, and seek out more? Who’s to say that being a part of the emergence of this new trend won’t actually work in my favor?
The key to all of this is perspective. I can either live in fear and believe that everything happening to or around me is part of some cosmic plan to ruin my life. Or I can live in the hope that everything happening to or around me is actually working in my favor to make my dreams come true. I choose to believe in the latter. Why? Because optimism just feels better. So if you find yourself in a similar situation and you’re creating something that other people may have also created or doing something that other people might also be doing, don’t panic.
I repeat, DO NOT PANIC. Instead, breathe, relax. Realize that books are about the journey, both for the reader and the writer, and that whether or not someone has a read a book like yours before, whether or not they hated it, the experience they have with your story will be totally unique. Because you’re unique. And even if the plot may be similar to something that’s already been done, or the characters are slightly familiar, or the setting is just being revisited, your words can never be replicated. Your point of view and your vision are something that no one else on earth has the capacity to create or translate. It’s you. Your book is you and you are one of a kind.
Earlier this month I completed the final line edit for my fourth novel and this week I’m working my way through the final line edit for my fifth. It’s slow-going and I find myself mulling over the same paragraph for almost an hour or tweaking sentences until they don’t even read like English anymore. The fact is, my brain is exhausted but I still have two hundred pages left to go before it will truly, finally, once and for all be finished. Editing and revisions are always difficult but there is something about that FINAL line edit that is so painstakingly sluggish, I practically feel like I’m moving backwards. Probably, because in many ways, I am.
The library I work at hosted an author event this past Saturday and I got the chance to catch part of the Q&A session. Someone in the audience asked the author when she knows a book is truly finished and after responding the way that most authors do and admitting that she could work on a WIP until the end of time, she said something else that surprised me. This particular author did not have a degree in Creative Writing, nor did she study it in school, but by being a voracious reader first she came to realize something about writing and the way books are consumed by the general public.
When it comes to good writing, she spoke of it as if it were a wide canal and as if the outer banks represented the threshold or standard by which readers judge that writing. The more narrow the canal, the more limited the audience, and the wider the canal, the more versatile the book’s appeal. The author explained that readers will always have a personal standard when it comes to books but that pursuing that reader standard is not the same as pursuing perfection. In fact, the author might still be tweaking her upcoming release if she hadn’t abandoned the pursuit of perfection and instead simply focused on doing her best. That’s all readers really want. At one point she even told the audience point-blank that if she had spent a hundred more hours perfecting her latest novel, the reader wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference. Why? Because readers aren’t looking for perfection. They’re looking for a good story. They’re looking for a strong voice. A unique and authentic voice. And all of those things can be accomplished simply by doing our best.
I needed to hear those words now more than ever. I have a lot of anxiety built up over the potential success or failure of my next release and its a ball and chain so literal that I can barely make any progress on this manuscript. My production has slowed down on every WIP in my queue and even as I’m nearing the end of certain projects I’m still second guessing every single decision.
Even though it’s pointless.
I know that I’ve done my best. In fact, it’s the only thing I do know for sure, and maybe it’s the only thing I need to know in order to declare that I’m finished. Truly finished. I’ve done my best and that’s all I can do. That’s all any of us can ever do. But the good news, or more accurately, the GREAT news is that our best is good enough. We are good enough. For the people who matter most, readers, our best is good enough.